If you are an expectant mother, it is very important for your health and your baby’s health that you continue to focus on your wellness throughout your pregnancy. In addition to eating right, getting proper rest, and taking your prenatal vitamins recommended by your doctor, physical fitness is very important. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologsts (ACOG), at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week is recommended. Here are some tips for staying fit during your pregnancy:
- As with anything that involves your body and your baby, it is important that you speak with your doctor about all your exercise plans. You should also follow the ACOG’s guidelines and be aware of any contraindications and abnormal symptoms that may develop.
- As your belly expands, your pelvis can tip to counterbalance the load. This “anterior pelvic tilt” shortens/tightens the hip flexors, tightens the lower back muscles and weakens your hamstrings. Doing exercises to stretch or strengthen these muscles can help prevent back pain and keep your core strong throughout your pregnancy. Muscles to stretch: low back, hip flexors, chest, quads (avoid over-stretching: pregnancy hormones stimulate lengthening and laxity in the ligaments and other connective tissues). Muscles to strengthen: glutes, hip extensors, hamstrings, trapezius (upper back), pelvic floor
- Include a minimum of two days per week of resistance training. Bands, machines, or body weight exercises are best during pregnancy, especially full body resistive exercises that incorporate large muscle groups and your core such as squats and cable exercises. Maintaining your muscle mass keeps your metabolic rate high to help you shed the baby weight and keeps your body strong so you can carry that 20lb infant car seat.
- Circuit training and workouts that combine aerobic and strength exercises are an efficient way to move. For example, completing the two mile loop around your local park followed by 4–5 bodyweight exercises (2–3 sets each of 10–15 reps). Examples include modified push-ups on a bench, tricep dips on a bench, body weight squats, and modified pull-ups. Most of these exercises can be done with items you have around you and require nothing more than your positive attitude and your doctors’ approval.
- If you were a fit, regular exerciser before you became pregnant, you can maintain your current frequency of exercise but back down on the intensity. Remember that this is not the time to lose weight or train for your next race. Listen to your body and stop exercising if you feel over fatigued or pain.
- If you count housecleaning and shopping as your physical activities, don’t order P90X or start an intense routine during pregnancy. Start with three days per week of moderate intensity exercise (such as walking) and progress to 30 minutes daily. You should be able to talk but not sing to know you are moving at the right pace.
- Maintaining the strength of your pelvic floor and doing exercises that target your glutes and core are vital for supporting your growing belly and helping you in the delivery room. Exercises such as hip bridges and planks coupled with Kegels are ideal. Avoid doing exercises on your back for extended periods of time. (See ACOG guidelines.)
- Pregnancy hormones can be brutal, and your poor partner often receives the brunt of it. Exercise and physical activity helps you feel good about your body and is proven to elevate your mood, combat depression and help you maintain that “Preggo Glow”.
- Hydration is critical. The combination of an increased blood volume during pregnancy and the heat of summer (or the dryness of winter) make it critical that you stay hydrated. Every fifteen minutes throughout your exercise routine you should be taking in 8 oz. of water. Getting dehydrated and overheated can have a negative impact on you and on the development of your fetus. See ACOG guidelines about avoiding exercising outdoors midday and any activity where you get overheated.
- Focus on maintaining a neutral spine (ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips) during exercise to prevent injury – if you can’t maintain good alignment, you should choose a different exercise or lessen the intensity.
This blog post is the first in a two-part series guest authored by Julie Drake and Leeann Marcie from the University of Texas at Austin’s Fitness Institute of Texas.